Aug 01, 2004

Warbirds provide a living history record

Vintage aircraft being preserved by enthusiasts

OSHKOSH — Beth Jenkins always knew she was born in the wrong era.

The Georgetown, Texas, woman imagines her ideal life in the 1940s, helping the nation’s war effort by flying military aircraft as a member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs).

Unlike most people who dream of living in an earlier time, Jenkins lives her imagined niche in history as pilot of a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber.

Jenkins, 48, flew a B-25 from Georgetown to the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture convention in Oshkosh.

The plane, owned by the Commemorative Air Force based in Midland, Texas, is one of six B-25s and one of hundreds of vintage warbirds at AirVenture as part of the Warbirds of America, a division of the EAA whose motto is “Keep ‘Em Flying.’”

“These warbirds will make it possible for the next couple of generations to learn the freedoms we have today come from those whose made sacrifices in war,” Jenkins said.

The B-25 was used by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders in the April 1942 raid on Tokyo following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Wade Costellanos, also of Georgetown, is crew chief and mechanic on Jenkins’ B-25.

Costellanos said keeping warbirds like the B-25 flying is challenging.

“This plane was built in 1944. It wasn’t meant to be around 60 years after the war,” he said.

Costellanos said planes like the B-25 can be repaired and parts fabricated, but at some point all the warbirds flying today will become too expensive to maintain. “They will all become static displays,” he said.

Costellanos said efforts to preserve warbirds are not meant to glorify war, “but to preserve history for future generations to help them understand what the nation went through during World War II.”

“They show sacrifices men and women gave not only at the war front but at home building these planes at a time when America stood behind a common goal,” he said.

Gary Koverman of Mill Valley, Calif., bought a World War II T-28 training aircraft worth an estimated $200,000 on Saturday while visiting AirVenture for the first time.

Koverman, 72, who trained in the T-28 as a Navy pilot in the mid-1950s, traded for his World War II vintage T-6G, another military training aircraft worth about $125,00 that he flew to Oshkosh.

“I love the T-6 in my heart, but the T-28 is part of my heritage. I feel it’s important we preserve as many of these airplanes as possible so people know what part they played in history,” Koverman said.